When the going gets tough, the tough, we have heard, get going. To that end, does Sebastian Vettel know where he’s going?
The 2019 Canadian Grand Prix saw a complicated end to what was until the final moments, a fairly simple and uncomplicated race. Sebastian Vettel drove like a champion, took pole position, and for the better part of the race, was leading a testing contest, one marked with 70-laps.
Then came that fiercely debated and widely discussed move that saw the Ferrari driver being handed a five-second penalty. The Ferrari, going off the track limits in what later turned out to be advantage Hamilton, saw Vettel demoted to second. And that was that.
In the process of Ferrari losing out on winning the Canadian Grand Prix, a few things happened, if one were to note the entirety of Vettel and his team’s loss.
First, Mercedes won yet another race, the seventh in as many races.
It was yet another occasion, where neither four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel or his young teammate, Charles Leclerc, albeit driving in only his second season, were able to contain “Hammertime!”
Second, Ferrari, who showed impressive form by winning the Canadian Grand Prix back in 2018, failed to capitalize on a track where they’d proved that Lewis was beatable. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Lewis holds a staggering record at Montreal, having won the contest on a record 7 occasions in the past.
And third, that Ferrari will now have to start all over again in their hitherto failed bid to beat arch-rivals, rather antithesis, Mercedes.
Minutes from the conclusion of the contest at Villeneuve-land, the team decried the decision that saw Vettel descend to the second step of the podium, the German no less gutted than his team.
In here lies the Sebastian Vettel predicament.
Cutting an understandably low figure on the podium ceremony, the former Red Bull driver was low in spirits. Yet, he was able to tell the crowds to not boo race-winner, Hamilton. A bold and brave step, right? He did prove that chivalry is not dead and that beyond race wins and losses, what stands out from a sportsman’s perspective is his attitude.
To that end, one wonders why would Vettel, at the back of another defeat- the usual order of the day this season- say, “F1 isn’t the sport I fell in love with.”
Why, a man who has against his name, 52 race wins and had only just exhibited a champion’s attitude in stepping up for a man who, according to his fans, “ruined his moment”, succumb to a defeatist attitude?
Here’s some food for thought for Vettel fans and the man himself, one who’d established a reign back in his Red Bull days.
Is a five-second penalty so atrociously taxing on the German that it would compel a man who’s won not one or two but 4 World titles in the past state he’s sort of growing out of love from the sport? During those halcyon days alongside Horner and Newey, Vettel made winning a habit. Not even the experienced duo of Alonso, then in Ferrari and Raikkonen, returning in Lotus were able to stop the German’s marauding charge. Has he forgotten all of that?
To that end, one wonders, whether Vettel’s comfortably ducking under the great disappointment of having missed out on beating Hamilton, when in his own feats in the past lies a case in point. He’s still got a lot to offer F1, a sport he’s celebrated with four grand world titles, which well, were won consecutively.
That said, let it not be forgotten that Sebastian Vettel has seen better days.
It’s not too back in the past.
Rewind the clocks to 2018. You see for yourself the kind of roaring form Vettel demonstrated, if at all, in parts.
While his 5 wins in the 21 contests did cut a bleak figure for a guy who’s failed to contain the Silver Arrows assault, despite having a car with better straight-line speed, it can be said that Vettel wasn’t a bug to be crushed as seen this year given Mercedes’ imperious touch.
While he may have failed to stop Mercedes from winning from the start of the 2015 season, it must be said, 2018 wasn’t all about Lewis Hamilton, in every circuit.
On most tracks where Hamilton won with comprehensive ease in the past, did Vettel show daring and guile, did he not?
Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps, Circuit Giles Villeneuve- if these aren’t tracks where the Mercedes driver has won time and again, then where has he?
15, a combined number of victories that the Stevenage-born driver has fetched from the aforementioned venues make for more wins than those earned by the likes of Felipe Massa, Gerhard Berger, and exactly the same number earned by Button, in totality.
The waging finger, the clench of the fist, the roaring salutations offered to his team, “Grazi.. Ragazzi, Forza Ferrari,” became warcries in 2018 as Vettel prevented Hamilton from taking the checkered flag at venues where we’ve become accustomed to seeing him triumph. His move on Bottas toward the closing stages at Silverstone and in making the Belgian GP a one-sided affair against Mercedes, tells us why Vettel’s so revered, after all.
Of course, it’s a completely different thing altogether that Hamilton, given the fighter he is, would turn the tables on the Ferrari driver by winning at Hockenheimring, Sebastian Vettel’s home GP, albeit counting on an erroneous move by his Ferrari counterpart.
In the light of the above, one can say that Vettel can actually feel inspired by all he’s achieved in the recent past.
This is not to mention that it’s Vettel and not Hamilton who had made winning a habit where the 2018 Grands Prix of Australia and Bahrain stand, circuits where Mercedes would play spoilsports for Ferrari in 2019.
So while it isn’t hard to note that Vettel, especially at the back of the penalty ruling is forlorn at the moment, he’s not a guy who you’d imagine bow out without a fight. At Monaco, over a fortnight ago, he’d take the second spot on the podium. He’d salvage some fight for Ferrari in the 1000th Grand Prix at China, where holding the upper hand over Verstappen on the main-straights was sheer class and race control.
The times may surely have changed for Sebastian Vettel, once, nearly emperor-like at Red Bull into being the second-best in an era where it all belongs to Lewis.
But the Heppenheim-born mustn’t forget that he’s still the same guy who stopped someone like Alonso and leave Lewis so far behind as to the Briton not even being a contender for a win in those days of the past. Hence, stand up Sebastian and fight! Greatness doesn’t come to those who win. But to those who persevere.